1st Edition

Puppet and Spirit: Ritual, Religion, and Performing Objects Volume I Sacred Roots: Material Entities, Consecrating Acts, Priestly Puppeteers

Edited By Claudia Orenstein, Tim Cusack Copyright 2023
    278 Pages 35 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This anthology of essays aims to explore the many types of relationships that exist between puppets, broadly speaking, and the immaterial world.

    The allure of the puppet goes beyond its material presence as, historically and throughout the globe, many uses of puppets and related objects have expressed and capitalized on their posited connections to other realms or ability to serve as vessels or conduits for immaterial presence. The flip side of the puppet’s troubling uncanniness is precisely the possibilities it represents for connecting to discarnate realities. Where do we see such connections? How do we describe, analyze, and theorize these relationships? The first of two volumes, this book focuses on these questions in relation to long-established, traditional practices using puppets, devotional objects, and related items with sacred aspects to them or that perform ritual roles. Looking at performance traditions and artifacts from China, Indonesia, Korea, Mali, Brazil, Iran, Germany, and elsewhere, the essays from scholars and practitioners provide a range of useful models and critical vocabularies for addressing the ritual and spiritual aspects of puppet performance, further expanding the growing understanding and appreciation of puppetry generally.

    This book, along with its companion volume, offers, for the first time, robust coverage of this subject from a diversity of voices, examples, and perspectives.

    List of Figures

    List of editors and contributors




    Claudia Orenstein and Tim Cusack

    SECTION I: Shamanic Lineages

      1. Puppets and Souls: Some Encounters in Korean Shaman Ritual

    Laurel Kendall

     2. Mamulengo and Spirituality: Are There Still Some Connections?

    Izabela Brochado

     3. Sogo bò: The Puppet Remains the Soul of the People, an Interview with Yaya Coulibaly

    Heather Jeanne Denyer 

    4. The Hula Ki`i, The Dance of the Sacred Image, Hawaiian Puppetry: Nāpali Souza Interview with Auli’i Mitchell

    Nāpali Souza and Auli'i Mitchell

    SECTION II: Communal Celebrations           

    5. Japanese Karakuri Ningyō and the Performance of Shinto 

    Yasuko Senda and William Condee

    6. Superhuman Superpowers: Puppets and Masks of Bhaona from the Assam Region of India

    Deepsikha Chatterjee 

     7. Wayang Ritual Drama of Cirebon: Continuance of a Kratophanic Tradition

    Matthew Isaac Cohen

    8. "I Have Come to Do a Purification": Interview with Masako Nakauchi and Kimiyo Minami

    Tomoe Kobayashi and Simon Moers

    SECTION III: Powerful Players

    9. Passing Down Through Shadows: Chinese Shadow Puppetry’s Ghostly Transmission

    Annie Katsura Rollins

    10. The Matter That Matters: An Exploration of Power and Materiality in Thai Nang Yai 

    Claudia Orenstein

    11. Consecrated Puppets: The Puppet Deities of Southern China and Taiwan

    Robin Ruizendaal

    12. Exploring Spirituality in Tholpavakoothu Shadow Puppetry of Kerala: A Conversation with Puppeteer Ramachandra Pulavar

    Sangeeth Sankar A. and Rahul Koonathara 

    SECTION IV: Doctrinal Dialogues       

    13. Islam, Animism and Animation of Objects: Growth and Restrictions of Puppetry Under the Shadow of Religion

    Salma Mohseni Ardehali and Mir Mohammadreza Heydari

    14. Saintly Puppet Masters and Sacred Clowning: Antinomian Religion and Patterns in Islamic Puppetry of Java

    Kathy Foley 

    15. Performing Death: A Medieval Puppet of Christ

    Michelle K. Oing

    SECTION V: Holding Heritage

    16. The Enchanted Kaavad: Hierophany in Motion

    Nina Sabnani

    17. Forging a Material Connection to the Divine: The Life Cycle Rituals of the Sefer Torah

    Joseph Maybloom




    Claudia Orenstein is Professor of Theatre at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, CUNY. She has spent over a decade writing on contemporary and traditional puppetry in the US and Asia.

    Tim Cusack is Adjunct Lecturer in Theatre at Hunter College. He was the co-founder and artistic director of Theatre Askew, an independent theatre company dedicated to the exploration of representations of queerness onstage. Puppetry has always been an aspect of his creative process.